Low-waste takeout food tips during social distancing

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

If you have already read this from a previous blog post, feel free to skip down past the featured picture to read the new blog post :)

Public Service Announcement: No matter how hard you try, you are going to be producing more waste than normal and that is OKAY. Unfortunately, we have not come up with a solution as a society that isn't single-use in regards to sanitation. Hopefully, that comes soon, but for now, we have to work within the system we have. The purpose of the upcoming blogs is to walk you through the steps you can take to reduce waste where you have the ability to do so.

Are you feeling guilty about the amount of waste you may be producing due to ordering takeout food? But are having mixed feelings because you know you are helping support the local community and small business owners? I feel you on that.

Right now, it is more important than ever to support our local restaurants and small business owners, if you have the financial ability to do so. Unfortunately, due to sanitation purposes, this means that things are extra packaged and there is little to no way around it. So instead of telling you, 'don't order takeout so you don't produce waste!' I am going to give you some guidelines to help you reduce the amount of waste generated in your takeout order.

Don't have the financial capability to order takeout right now but still want to help out small businesses? Share about their offerings on your socials. This does more help than you could ever know. Someone could be flipping through your profile and see that a local restaurant is now offering delivery or takeout services, and that could generate a sale. Spreading the word helps keep our community together and stable.

Now, let's get down to 'takeout' business.

Below are some tips that will point you in the right direction to at least lower your waste consumption during this difficult time.

  • Ask for 'no plastic or utensils' whenever possible and use the ones at your house.

  • Ask for no plastic bag. If they can't avoid it, be sure to reuse the plastic bag.

  • Ask for no extra sauce or other side dishes that may come packaged. (Think the parmesan cheese and pepper packets from pizza restaurants, or the extra soy sauce from Chinese food)

  • Ask for no extra napkins and use the reusable ones at your house.

  • Ask for no extra plates

  • Ask for no aluminum foil (sometimes restaurants line the containers with this, but it is unnecessary. If they insist, ask them to line with paper instead )

  • If you got drinks, ask for no straws.

  • Avoid places that serve in Styrofoam.

  • If the restaurant is using styrofoam, chances are they have some heavy-duty plastic containers that can be reused. Ask that they pack your food in those containers instead and reuse them as storage containers.

  • Research restaurants that are using compostable products (hint pizza is an epic go-to.)

  • However, still avoid compostable plastics if possible, since they don't truly biodegrade. Ask for all compostable products made out of paper, bamboo, or wood.

  • See if items can be packaged together in one container, instead of multiple different ones.

  • If the food comes in an aluminum container with a plastic top on it, wash it out and reuse it. These are more durable than people make them out to be. You can store leftover food in them or use them for meal prepping.

  • A quick way to sum everything up is "Minimal packing, please. we don't need any extra products like plates, utensils, napkins or garnishes. Just the containers that have our food in them, packaged as efficient as possible. Thank you!"

My personal favorite for 'waste-free' takeout is pizza. I use the cardboard as plates and don't dirty one of my own. Then I compost the cardboard afterward :)

What are your low-waste takeout food hacks?

Enjoy your eats 😋

To sustainability and beyond!

- Marina M. McCoy

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